Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And so it begins...

Today our house is getting its first paint job since 2003.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another letter from Howard Griffin

I shared with you recently a letter I received in 1958 from my Texas neighbor, author John Howard Griffin. Howard had become blind because of a plane crash while in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific in 1946. His parents, Jack and Lena Griffin, moved from the city of Dallas out into the country, and it happened that they bought a farm on our lane. We were four families in all -- the Bragues, the Hugginses, the Griffins, and the Brocketts. Howard Griffin met a local girl, Elizabeth Ann Holland, and converted from Presbyterian to Roman Catholic in order to marry her. They had four children together before he suddenly regained his sight in 1957. In what had formerly been a barn at his parents’ place, Howard kept a writing studio equipped with a typewriter and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Sometimes he would drop by to chat while out riding his horse or walking with his beautiful collie dog.

Today I want to show you a letter Howard wrote to my mother in 1956 shortly before he regained his sight. I found it among her things after she died and have kept it all these years:

.................................................................Mansfield, Texas
.................................................................August 28, 1956

Dear Mrs. Brague,

We have just been visiting with Mrs. Brockett who told us the news of your forthcoming operation. Sitting out here in my studio tonight, working until very late, one thought keeps tormenting me. It is this:
I wonder if you have any idea what an inspiration you are to your neighbors, and how truly devoted to you we are? - even though people sometimes find great difficulty showing these things, or expressing them.

You have many silent rooters for your health and well being. Not just those in my immediate family - no; I am sure I speak for everyone whose llife in any way touches yours, even casually. Many a prayer goes up for you that you perhaps do not suspect. The good that you do all of us by your example is more far-reaching than you imagine. I hear it spoken of frequently by the townspeople.

I do not mean this to be a somber letter, nor do I wish to give you the embarrassment of an answer - so just tuck it away in your memory as a bit of information that needed saying. We have boundless admiration for your gallantry and courage - and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be told those things which all of us feel but which few of us take the trouble to express.

We are very certain that the many and powerful prayers that are being said and the many and powerful wishes that are being formed for you augur well for the success of this operation; and that you have nothing to fear. I am certain of it, which is one of the reasons I am sitting here writing you this clumsy note.

I have sent out word to the Carmelite nuns - those wonderful women who spend their lives in prayer for others - to remember you especially at this time, as I did when you were hospitalized before. And I thought you might like to know that in convents all over this country and Europe your name is being spoken by people who ask the blessings of health and happiness for you, Bobby and Ted.

.................................................................Yours sincerely,


A little over a year later, on October 4, 1957, my mother died of abdominal cancer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth. I was 16. She was 47.

Howard died in 1980 at the age of 60.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Minimal, thanks, and you?

Here are two poems by William Carlos Williams:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Besides these two poems I also want to share with you an email I received about a woman whose computer password was “MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento” and when asked why she chose that particular password she replied that the instructions said it must have eight characters and at least one capital. I personally think Indianapolis or Tallahassee is funnier than Sacramento but that may just be me. Also, for all readers outside the U.S., Sacramento is the capital of California, Indianapolis is the capital of Indiana, and Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, but if you pass this story along I suggest that you say Helsinki.

Why, yes, I am feeling much better. Why do you ask?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Air Force Blue

(Photo taken at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas, 1961)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quiz post-mortem, or If you want me, just whistle

Out of my vast potential readership of 7.2 billion people on planet earth and a few on Uranus, a grand total of two people entered yesterday’s quiz. Thank you, Mary Z in Tennessee and Reamus in Southern California. Well, at least it wasn’t a complete bust.

To review, the question was to identify who said the following, and when, and why:

1. “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” The correct answer is Gerald R. Ford on taking the oath of office as President of August 9, 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned. 100% of male respondents answered correctly. 100% of female respondents didn’t answer at all.

o 2. “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” The correct answer is Ann Richards, then treasurer of the state of Texas and keynote speaker at the 1988 Democratic National Convention (she would not become Governor of Texas until 1991) , referring to then Vice-President George H. W. Bush. Both respondents identified Ann Richards as the speaker but neither one got the occasion, although Mary thought it was in reference to George W. Bush (the son) .

3. “We’re going to take from the haves and give it to the have nots who need it so much.” Mary didn’t answer. Reamus said Dan Quayle (George H. W. Bush’s Vice-President) . The correct answer is President Lyndon B. Johnson speaking in 1964 of his Great Society programs.

4. “One, if by land, and two, if by sea; and I on the opposite shore will be, ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm.” Both respondents said Paul Revere, which may or may not be correct -- we don’t know exactly what he said. The answer I had in mind was poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote the lines in “Paul Revere’s Ride (The Landlord’s Tale)” in 1860, 85 years after the actual 1775 ride.

5. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!” Mary correctly identified the speaker as Prissy, in the movie Gone With the Wind. Reamus said Humphrey Bogart. Prissy was played by Butterfly McQueen. Humphrey Bogart wasn’t in Gone With the Wind but he was married to Lauren Bacall, which has to count for something.

6. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” These words were correctly identified by 100% of our entrants as the final utterance of American Nathan Hale before he was hanged by the British during the American Revolution.

7. “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Both Mary and Reamus said Admiral Dewey (it was not) ; Reamus said the Battle of Mobile Bay (it was) . Admiral Dewey was at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War, where he said, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” At the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War, Admiral David Farragut uttered the lines in question.

8. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Both respondents correctly identified the speaker as FDR and the occasion as his first inaugural address in 1933.

9. “Nobody’s perfect.” Mary left no answer. Reamus said he and many others had said it. The answer I was looking for was actor Joe E. Brown to actor Jack Lemmon at the end of the movie Some Like It Hot.

10. “All right, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Both contestants correctly identified actress Gloria Swanson. Reamus wasn’t sure which movie it was and Mary said the movie was the original A Star Is Born. Close, but no cigar. The movie was the original Sunset Boulevard.

Mary, Reamus, and I have had a wonderful time wasting time with this quiz. I only wish that more of you had chosen to do so. I’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, as Humphrey Bogart once said to Lauren Bacall, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Who said that? (A post-American-election quiz)

...And when? And why? (No fair peeking or Googling. You will receive extra points for creativity. Some questions may have two answers; pick the most accurate one.)

1. “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”

2. “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

3. “We’re going to take from the haves and give it to the have nots who need it so much.”

4. “One, if by land, and two, if by sea; and I on the opposite shore will be, ready to ride and spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm.”

5. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!”

6. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

7. “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

8. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

9. “Nobody's perfect.”

10. "All right, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close-up.”

[Editor's note. Any similarity to anything I have ever said or written in the seven-year history of this blog is purely coincidental. --RWP]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A portmanteau post

[Editor’s note. According to dictionary.com, a portmanteau word is a word composed of parts of two or more words, such as chortle (from chuckle and snort) and motel (from motor and hotel) . The term was first used by Lewis Carroll to describe many of the unusual words in his Through the Looking-Glass (1871), particularly in the poem “Jabberwocky.” Other authors who have experimented with such words are James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Since this post combines parts of two previous posts of mine (one from October 2013 and one from October 2012) , I have dubbed it a portmanteau post. --RWP]

Here is part of Burt’s Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville, Georgia, which Mrs. RWP and I visited when Bob and Linda (my stepbrother and his wife) visited Georgia last year:

This post is for all you city people who never lived on a farm, and all you highly educated folks out there who probably think you’re better than everybody else but still could learn a thing or two.

The following poem by James Whitcomb Riley, which hearkens back to a simpler time and a more agrarian society, may be just what the doctor ordered:

When the Frost is on the Punkin
by James Whitcomb Riley (1849 - 1916)

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here —
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries — kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below — the clover overhead! —
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the cellar-floor in red and yaller heaps;
And your cider-makin’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With theyr mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and sausage too!...
I don’t know how to tell it — but ef such a thing could be
As the angels wantin’ boardin', and they’d call around on me —
I’d want to ’commodate ’em — all the whole-indurin’ flock —
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

If I had to pick my favorite part of that poem besides the frost and the punkin and the fodder and the shock, it would have to be the rooster’s hallylooyer.

According to that Wikipedia article, Riley’s chief legacy was “his influence in fostering the creation of a midwestern cultural identity and his contributions to the Golden Age of Indiana Literature.” I don’t know about you but I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Indiana Literature, let alone a whole Golden Age of It. It seems we all can still learn a thing or two.

James Whitcomb Riley was not one of the great poets, but he is an interesting one nonetheless. Back in the day, we had to read that poem in school and also his “Little Orphant Annie” with the warning at the end of each stanza that “the Gobble-uns’ll git you ef you don’t watch out!” -- I thought you might like it as Halloween approaches.

If you feel you just can’t get enough of James Whitcomb Riley*, here is a link to 449 of his poems (he wrote more than a thousand, the majority in dialect) that should prove you wrong.

*here’s a shout-out to Pam Doyle, otherwise known as Hilltophomesteader, who (a) lives somewhere in southwestern Washington state and (b) has gone on record as really liking James Whitcomb Riley. Hi, Pam!